Rare and fragrant, Casizolu is one of the most typical products of Sardinia
The production of Casizolu is complex but tells a lot about ancient Sardinian habits
Sardinia is strongly linked to sheep farming and the production of cheeses such as Pecorino Sardo. Yet, among Sardinian typical cheeses one is particularly rare, since it is made form cow’s milk. It is Casizolu.
History of the Casizolu
The origins of Casizolu are unclear.
However, the production area is that of Montiferru, in central-western Sardinia. This name, “Montiferru”, derives from the volcanic massif of the same name and efers to the local iron deposits.
The presence of man in this area dates back to ancient times. Nuraghi, tombs of the giants, domus de janas and many other remains prove this presence.
Casizolu is a result of the rural and industrial society of Montiferru. In fact, its production was the task of women. Why? Because it required so much time, effort and patience that men, grappling with other jobs, would never have been able to deal with it. Even today, reaching the optimal degree of lactic fermentation is essential to obtain a good cheese. But this can happen at any time, even in the middle of the night.
To produce Casizolu, women used freshly milked milk, proceeded with the spinning of the curd in hot water and then modeled the cheese in cold water and brine. However, the water rich in whey was not thrown away, but used to give more flavor to soups. The modeling of the Casizolu lasted until the surface of the cheese became smooth and shiny. Then, the forms were initially placed in a basket or cloth. After a couple of days, they were hung from the ceiling and left to age in the cellar.
The production today
Today Casizolu producers can count on technologies that help them greatly, but the processing is still completely manual. They work between autumn and early summer, in harmony with the lactation cycles of the Sardinian Modica or Brown-Sardinian cows. These are cows that live in the wild all year round and produce little milk.
Precisely for these characteristics of authenticity and craftsmanship, the Sardinian Casizolu cheese is a Slow Food presidium.
Moreover, the Presidium producers created an official association, which has a production specification that guarantees quality throughout the supply chain.
Finally, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies included Casizolu in the list of Traditional Agri-food Products of the Sardinia region.
Characteristics of the Casizolu
Casizolu cheese looks like a large pot-bellied pear.
Its color depends on the aging: from light yellow to golden yellow.
The crust is smooth and thin, while the dough is compact, elastic and presents some holes. In case of long aging, the dough is hard and flaky.
Casizolu gives off a scent with vegetal, grass and wood notes.
The flavor is similar and has a good persistence which, on the finish, recalls almonds. In case of short aging, the taste is sweeter, while it is spicier in case of long aging.
The cheeses are often available in sizes from 500g to 3kg.
Where and how to taste this typical Sardinian cheese
You can taste this rare Sardinian cow cheese during the Casizolu Festival, or you can use it for some typical Sardinian dish.
Like all Sardinian cheeses, Casizolu is excellent eaten alone, raw or lightly grilled. However, it is excellent for seasoning first courses. One of these are the gnocchi with Casizolu fondue and porcini mushrooms. Another is the Gallurese soup. Despite the name, this is not a soup. On the contrary, it consists of layers of stale bread soaked in warm broth of sheep or lamb, and layers of cow’s cheese. Like many traditional Sardinian peasant dishes, it is as simple as tasty. You should definitely try it!